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Mound Musings: 30 Rotations Heading into Sept.

David Regan

David Regan

David Regan is a five-time Fantasy Sports Writers Association award winner, and was named the 2010 Fantasy Baseball Writer of the Year.

With the September call-ups forthcoming, teams will start looking toward the future, and contenders will be in the market for reinforcements. We'll see some players called up to simply pinch run, others to just get a taste of the big leagues before hoping to break into the rotation/lineup next year and others will be called upon to make an impact. Let's look at each of the 30 rotations and see how they are shaping up for the rest of 2010.

NL West

In Los Angeles, Vicente Padilla is out indefinitely due to a neck injury. The Dodgers are set in all other rotation spots, but the No. 5 slot could be a revolving door with Padilla gone and Carlos Monasterios incapable of going more than five innings. We could see John Ely get another chance soon, though he's not impressing in Triple-A. A deeper sleeper is 21-year-old Rubby De La Rosa, who has a 0.92 ERA in six starts for Double-A Jacksonville.

The Giants are set 1-5 in their rotation, though if another starter is needed, they'd probably bring back Joe Martinez from Triple-A Fresno, though this fantasy value is rather limited. As for Tim Lincecum's 3.72 ERA, expect that to drop quickly between now and the end of the year, as there is no indication of injury at work.

Arizona began its rebuilding process this year, dealing Dan Haren and Edwin Jackson and receiving Joe Saunders and Dan Hudson, among others, in return. Those two and Ian Kennedy are the only established starters as the Dbacks look toward 2011. Barry Enright has proven a viable No. 5, but his 2.73 ERA is not supported by his .243 BABIP and 5.3 K/9. Look for some regression. Jarrod Parker is the team's top pitching prospect, but he's recovering from Tommy John surgery and likely won't be an option until late-2011 at best.

On one hand, it seems you can plug anyone in the Padres rotation and see a sub-4.00 ERA, as the team's starters have a collective 3.48 mark this year. Unless someone gets hurt, the Padres won't have an opening in the rotation. Mat Latos will get extra rest down the stretch to keep his workload manageable. If another starter is needed, the Padres would probably tap a guy like ex-Oriole Radhames Liz (4.99 ERA in Triple-A) or the far more interesting Simon Castro in Double-A. There is a good chance Castro pitches well enough next spring to win a rotation spot.

In Colorado, Aaron Cook (toe) is set to rejoin the Cardinals in a week or so, but is there room in the rotation once he does? Jhoulys Chacin would seem to deserve to stick in the rotation, and Esmil Rogers pitched pretty well in his last start. Rogers is vulnerable, but he could solidify his spot with another couple solid outings.

NL Central

The Reds appear likely to shut down Mike Leake to protect his arm, so that helps ease the rotation log-jam, but the Reds will have Aaron Harang (back) returning soon assuming he can turn his poor rehab stint around. Homer Bailey has done enough to stick in the rotation for the rest of the season and Travis Wood has been very good save his ugly start Tuesday, so he seems likely to stick around. The Reds are reportedly considering moving Edinson Volquez to the bullpen after his last ugly outing, but no decisions will be made until Harang is deemed ready to return.

James McDonald struggled with his command in his last start, but of all the Pirates' starters, he may (somewhat sadly) have the most upside, so he probably sticks around. The Pirates added a bushel of power arms through the draft and international market recently, but the cupboard is bare at the upper levels. Brad Lincoln should work as a starter come September, but even though he was a former top-five pick, his upside appears limited. Charlie Morton could return soon, but if that excites you, you're in a very, very deep league, or simply delusional.

Houston's Bud Norris is one of the harder-throwing starters in the game with an average fastball of 93.6 mph, but with a 5.03 ERA, he's more a 2011 sleeper than anything right now. The guy to keep an eye on in Houston is 19-year-old top prospect Jordan Lyles, who despite his youth is a possibility for a handful of 2010 starts for the Astros. Lyles has a 5.94 ERA in three Triple-A starts, so delaying his debut to 2011 is probably best.

In Milwaukee, the plug has finally been pulled on Manny Parra (6.19 ERA), who is being replaced by Chris Capuano. Capuano has a 3.72 ERA and solid 28:8 K:BB in 29 innings, mostly in relief, so he's worth an NL-only flier.
Kyle Lohse has returned to fill the No. 5 slot for the Cardinals, but despite his win over the Pirates last time out, Lohse's 6.47 ERA is less than inspiring. With Brad Penny (back) likely done for the year, P.J. Walters likely would get the call should another starter be needed. Former first-round pick Lance Lynn is struggling in Triple-A, and Adam Ottavino is probably done for the year with a shoulder injury.

On the North Side of Chicago, Casey Coleman has supplanted Thomas Diamond in the rotation. And with Coleman faring well in his last start in Washington (6 IP, 3 H, 1 R), he has earned another couple starts. Coleman sported a 4.5 K/9 for Triple-A Iowa, so his upside appears limited. Should Coleman falter, Jay Jackson is waiting in Iowa to take his job.

NL East

Mike Minor has filled in quite admirably for the injured Kris Medlen (Tommy John surgery), so I wouldn't anticipate any changes in the Atlanta rotation. The Braves continue to be a pitching-development factory, with several top prospects at the Double-A level or below, but if they need another starter this year, it's doubtful a guy like man-child/19-year-old Julio Teheran would get the call, but you never know. Instead, expect the less-interesting Kenshin Kawakami to be brought back.

The Mets are set 1-4 with R.A. Dickey one of the surprises of baseball this year. With Pat Misch holding for the five-hole, however, there is an opportunity for someone to claim that slot. That someone could be 20-year-old Jenrry Mejia, who has transitioned back to the rotation successfully in Double-A, posting a 1.32 ERA in six starts.

In Washington, all the attention centers on Stephen Strasburg (elbow) and his status for not just this year, but 2011 as well. That's a tired discussion, so we won't go there in this piece. Instead, just know that other than Livan Hernandez, no one has a permanent rotation spot. Also, there really isn't anyone interesting to follow. Check that – there are two: Jordan Zimmerman and Yunesky Maya. Zimmerman has returned from Tommy John surgery, and of all Nationals pitchers, he probably has the most upside of anyone not drafted No. 1 overall. Cuban import Maya is a bit of an unknown, but he could be Orlando Hernandez in time.

Joe Blanton has been much better lately, so no team in baseball goes as deep 1-4 as the Phillies. Kyle Kendrick is holding down the five slots, but he's never shown long-term ability to do so. Should Kendrick need a replacement, expect Andrew Carpenter to be that guy. The 25-year-old has a 3.92 ERA and 102:49 K: BB in 133 Triple-A innings.

The Marlins have a very good 1-3 with Johnson, Nolasco, and Sanchez, but 4 and 5 are questionable. Chris Volstad's 4.82 ERA is right in line with below average peripherals (5.7 K/9, 3.6 BB/9), and while Alejandro Sanabia's last three starts have gone pretty well, he's no lock to stick in the rotation. Sean West (knee) should return in September, but his time in the big leagues has been less than inspiring.

AL West

In Anaheim, Joel Pineiro (oblique) is unlikey to make more than one or two starts at the end of the season, and with Scott Kazmir (6.33 ERA, 1.60 WHIP) struggling for a good portion of the year, the Angels' playoff hopes are all but dead. There's also nothing to look forward to in terms of MLB-ready pitching prospects, as Trevor Bell's upside is limited.

Considering Tommy Hunter is 10-2 with a 3.68 ERA, he appears locked in as the Rangers' No. 5 starter, though that could change quickly considering his 1.5 HR/9 and 4.4 K/9. Although the five walks were more than we'd like to see, Rich Harden's 6.2 hitless innings against the Twins should help his status as the No. 5 starter, though Derek Holland lurks.

Beyond Felix Hernandez and Jason Vargas, the Mariners' rotation is filled with pitchers on the cusp of a bullpen or Triple-A demotion. Why Seattle hasn't seen fit to promote 21-year-old top pitching prospect Michael Pineda may be due to his scuffling a bit in his last couple Triple-A starts, but with a 133:49 K:BB in 135.2 innings in the PCL, Pineda may already be the second-best pitcher in the organization, majors included.

Brett Anderson and Trevor Cahill should be a solid 1-2 for Oakland until they are traded in a few years, and Dallas Braden and Gio Gonzalez has had a breakout year with a 3.24 ERA in 161 innings. The A's don't have much of anything interesting at Double-A or above, so Vincent Mazzaro should remain the No. 5 starter, though look for the A's to bring in another veteran on a one-year deal this winter.

AL Central

The Indians have a bunch of pitchers who could develop into No. 3 starters (Jeanmar Gomez, Josh Tomlin, etc.), but don't really have anyone who is ready to be a consistent 3.50 ERA pitcher. We'll see flashes from these guys and Justin Masterson, but the real talent lies in the minors – Alex White, Drew Pomeranz, and Joe Gardner among a few others. We'll start to see these guys next year, but for now, the Indians will continue to roll the current crop out there with less than consistent results.

The White Sox are pretty set in their rotation, though perhaps Freddy Garcia (5.08 ERA) makes himself vulnerable to being replaced at some point. Lucas Harrell could be next in line to start, though his minor league track record is rather spotty.

The Royals have Zack Greinke and … pray for rain? Luke Hochevar (elbow) looks like a bust at No. 1 overall a couple years ago, though he could eventually settle in as a No. 3 or 4 starter. Kyle Davies, Bruce Chen and Sean O'Sullivan are merely placeholders, and despite that outing against the Yankees, Bryan Bullington probably is as well. So placeholder for whom? Fortunately, the Royals have arguably baseball's top farm system, which includes pitching prospects such as Mike Montgomery, John Lamb, Danny Duffy, Aaron Crow and others. These pitchers should start trickling into the big leagues sometime next season.

Francisco Liriano, Scott Baker and Carl Pavano give the Twins a solid 1-2-3. Brian Duensing has won four of five starts since replacing Nick Blackburn, so he's likely to stick around for the rest of the season. Duensing, though, isn't a big strikeout guy (5.1 K/9), and his .249 BABIP likely isn't sustainable, so some regression will happen there. Blackburn has the five slot to himself, but Kevin Slowey (triceps) is likely to return in about 10 days, so Blackburn's time in the rotation could be a short.

The Tigers have struggled to find consistency beyond Justin Verlander. Rick Porcello has very good upside, but he's been up and down all year, while Jeremy Bonderman can't seem to get his ERA below 5.00. Max Scherzer has been a bright spot recently (why did Arizona do that deal again?), holding opponents to two or fewer runs in each of his last five starts. The No. 5 slot belongs to Armando Galarraga, though Galarraga seems to have issues with any team other than the Indians. Andrew Oliver didn't fare well in his first big league stint, but he could return in September and adequately fill in should the Tigers need another starter.

AL East

In the Bronx, Andy Pettitte is about 10-14 days away from a return from a groin injury for the Yankees, so he'll slot right in as the No. 4 starter, but that still leaves the troublesome No. 5 hole. Javier Vazquez has been “temporarily” replaced by Ivan Nova, but considering that Nova looked good against the Blue Jays in his first start, this could turn permanent.

The Red Sox need to get Josh Beckett (6.67 ERA) turned around, but other than that, they are pretty set 1-5. Should another guy be needed, ol' reliable Tim Wakefield wouldn't have a problem sliding right back into the rotation. At this point, the majority of the interesting Boston pitching prospects are at the lower levels, as Michael Bowden is working as a reliever.

Romero, Morrow, Cecil and Marcum are a solid and deep 1-4 for the Blue Jays, but Marc Rzepczynski is far from set as the No. 5 starter considering his 6.31 ERA. Jesse Litsch (hip) and oft-injured Dustin McGowan (shoulder) won't be back this year, so maybe Kyle Drabek gets a shot this month. He's one of baseball's top pitching prospects and has a 2.98 ERA in 25 Double-A starts (he's being kept away from the Vegas launching pad in Triple-A).

The Rays are still at least six starters deep, with Jeremy Hellickson now in Triple-A where he wouldn't be in most other (if not all) big league organizations. Even beyond Hellickson, the Rays are still loaded at the Double-A and lower levels with pitchers like Matthew Moore, Alexander Colome and others. Expect the Rays to find a way to get Hellickson in the rotation, but that may not happen until 2011.

The Orioles have a bevy of young pitching talent, but most of it has disappointed this year. Chris Tillman has a 7.92 ERA in six starts this year, but he'll return on Sept. 1, presumably as a starter. Tillman's upside makes him a very interesting pickup next month. Brian Matusz has back-to-back impressive starts against the Rangers and White Sox and appears on the cusp of fulfilling his potential after a mostly rocky 2010, while Jake Arrieta has largely been a disappointment (4.2 K/9, 4.9 BB/9). The Orioles' top pitching prospect yet to debut is Zach Britton, who should be a big part of the 2011 rotation and should make his debut next month.